Risking Everything to Go Pro

Brooklyn born boxer Heather Hardy wants to be a world champion. She will not compete this month to make the first women’s Olympic boxing team – she plans to go pro instead. But getting paid to fight – when you’re a woman – is difficult even for top tier boxers. So, like female boxers around the world, Hardy hopes the women who enter the ring in London this summer will change her life, too.

“I want to be a world champion,” she said at her new home in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. And she wants to make a living doing it.
 
Hardy fights at 125 pounds. Her eyes are yellow and blue, her hair is dirty blond. She’s 29 years old. She’s only been boxing a few years and, last year, she became a national champion in the amateurs.  

She trains and works at Gleason’s gym – open since 1937 and known for the long list of champions who started there. Gleason’s was a leader in allowing women into the gym to box in the early '80s. 

The walls of owner Bruce Silverglade’s office are plastered with historic photographs. On a recent morning he pointed to a picture of the first group of women to train there. He says he saw they wanted to box – saw they’d pay money to do it – so he closed down the gym for them two nights a week.

“It’s a big gym, big name, so when we do something people follow what we do,” Silverglade said. “I think we were very instrumental in helping the women’s movement.”

Listen to the story above to hear why Heather Hardy is so set on going pro, and whether – as a mother of a 7-year old – she thinks about the likelihood of ending up with a brain injury. You’ll also learn why four-time world champion Alicia Ashley has trouble getting a fight in New York and why trainer and promoter Tommy Gallagher says women’s boxing “is a disgrace.”

Heather Hardy with her coach, Devon Cormack, after winning the featherweight championship at Nationals.
Heather Hardy with her coach, Devon Cormack, after winning the featherweight championship at Nationals. ( Sue Jaye Johnson )

Heather Hardy drops her daughter off at dance class. "When I fight people who are moms? You can't break a mom. A single mom, forget it."

( Sue Jaye Johnson )

Heather Hardy works and trains at Gleason's gym in Brooklyn. "Why would you work so hard 18 hours a day to make practically nothing? Because one day I will make something."

( Sue Jaye Johnson )
Heather Hardy says boxing is not an individual sport. She says she could not win without her coach, Devon Cormack.
Heather Hardy says boxing is not an individual sport. She says she could not win without her coach, Devon Cormack. ( Sue Jaye Johnson )
Heather Hardy: "I want to be a world champion."
Heather Hardy: "I want to be a world champion." ( Sue Jaye Johnson )
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